‘A Wild and Ardent Faith’: Testing Oppositions in the Post-‘Mutiny’ Discourse
In post-‘Mutiny’ British colonial discourse the Indo-Muslim ‘stranger’ came to pose an irresistible and insoluble problem in legibility. To approach this figure was, for the British writer, to risk the dissolution of a highly unstable official colonialist identity; and yet in 1857 he had become its most important point of reference. As I will now discuss with reference to the later published writings of Alfred Lyall, W W Hunter’s Indian Musalmans (1871), and the debate on the ‘Wahabi’ ‘panics’ of the 1860s, the visibility of the Indo-Muslim ‘stranger’ in colonialist rhetoric during this period narrates the desired invisibility of the rapidly changing and increasingly intrusive, post-‘Mutiny’ colonial state.1 His persistent illegibility, on the other hand, traumatically exposes the founding colonialist paradox of being at once a legislator of, and an actor within, the theatre of colonial neutrality. The result, I will argue, is a relentless process of descriptive segregation, the invariable fate of all ‘strangers’ in collective imaginings.
KeywordsChinese Government Asiatic Study Indian Society Indian Context Colonial State
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- 14.The following discussion is based largely on B Metcalf, Deoband, pp. 46–71. But see also, Aziz Ahmad, Studies in Islamic Culture in the Indian Environment (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), pp. 201–18; and Pearson, Islamic Reform.Google Scholar
- 26.Syed Ahmad Khan, Review of Dr Hunter’s Indian Musalmans, Are they Bound in Conscience to Rebel Against the Queen? (Benares: Medical Hall Press, 1872), pp. 15–19, 29.Google Scholar
- 40.However, in addition to its Mughal class connotations, the term ‘race’ should also be regarded here as a collaboration in the text not only between its author and translator, but between itself and Indian Musalmans, in which ‘race’ is often used to denote a coherent Indo-Islamic entity. Although the title page of the review describes it as being written in ‘original English corrected by a friend’, Sayyid Ahmad Khan is known to have had at best a rudimentary grasp on the language (G F I Graham, The Life and Work of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (Karachi: Oxford University Press, repr. 1974; 1885), p. 5; Lelyveld, Aligarh, p. 33). Moreover, ‘race’ as a biological concept was not taken up with any consistency by Indo-Muslim writers until the early twentieth century; and even then, it interacted — as it most probably has done here — with other Islamic concepts of community, such as qawm, millat, and ‘umma (these issues are discussed in Javed Majeed, ‘Pan-Islam and “Deracialisation” in the Thought of Muhammad Iqbal’ in Peter Robb (ed.) The Concept of Race in South Asia (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. 304–27). The word ‘race’ should then be read as reflective of the dialogic nature of the article as a whole, engaging with and appropriating, rather than merely denying the perceptions of its Anglo-Indian interlocutor.Google Scholar
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- 128.Given its central role in the story, it is surprising that no sustained critical attention has been paid to the Muslim dimension to the dissonance between Wali Dad and Indian society. He is more frequently interpreted either as an expression of a hybrid — and therefore, in the view of the narrative, marginalised — nascent Indian nationalism; or as no more than a component of the communal problem frustrating a nationalist future. For an example of the former, see Teresa Hubel, Whose India? The Independence Struggle in British and Indian Fiction and History (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1996), pp. 34–44; and for a typical instance of the latter approach, see Parry, Delusions, pp. 239–42.Google Scholar
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